Volunteers Knock Out Longhorns, Gibson

Posted in Basketball at 3:32 pm by

Tennesse 95, Texas 78

A couple of neighbors suggested that I was unduly harsh last week in claiming Texas’ 35 point to loss Duke dented the former’s credibility as a national title contender (the counter argument being that this was, y’know, Duke). All of that said, I think it is safe to assume that today’s blowout loss at home to unranked Tennessee has further exposed Texas’ limitations. Once again, the Horns had to make do without Brad Buckman, though the loss of Daniel Gibson to a concussion 9 minutes in was probably the more fatal blow. PJ Tucker, playing with 4 fouls through most of the 2nd half, was particularly ineffective on both ends of the floor.

And full credit to Tennessee, Texas had no answers for the sharp-shooting of guards CJ Watson, JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton (a combined 11 for 17 from 3 point range).

Though Phil Mushnick would be the first to remind us that Kentucky beating Louisville at homeas they learned yesterday that Robert Morris’ suspension has been reduced to 14 games (down from a full season ban).

Riles Vs. Jones

Posted in Basketball at 1:33 pm by

Though Damon Jones isn’t quite the NBA’s Freddie Mitchell (for one thing, he can actually play) he’s still a reporter’s dream come true. From the Miami Herald’s Israel Gutierrez.

After Stan Van Gundy resigned Monday amid speculation Riley forced Van Gundy out of a job, Jones — who is on his 10th team in his eighth NBA season — said Van Gundy never had a chance.

”This is a business, and in my opinion, [Van Gundy] was set up to fail,” Jones (above) told the Cleveland media. ”The way [Van Gundy] likes to coach the game, he didn’t have the personnel to do it. Stan’s a great coach.”

After hearing the comment Friday for the first time, Riley said it was insulting.

”That’s a ludicrous statement,” Riley said. ”He’s questioning my integrity, and it is absolutely who he is. That’s why he’s who he is. If he said that, it’s a false statement, it’s a goddamn lie, and I want him to come to my face and tell me to my face and not tell [the media]. That’s what he should do.

”That’s wrong. But that’s why he’s Damon Jones.

Pacers, O’Neal Continue Burying Artest

Posted in Basketball at 1:15 pm by

The Indianapolis Star’s Mike Wells quotes Pacers GM Donnie Walsh as saying if he’s unable to find the right deal for Ron Artest, he’s prepared to keep the flaky forward on the inactive list for the entire season. That should really scare the heck out of the Pistons.

In the same piece, Jermaine O’Neal said of Artest,

“The most disappointing part is he hasn’t called anybody; no players or anything,” O’Neal said.

“Players don’t forget stuff like that. We’ve been very forgiving to him.

“I will never play with him again. We can’t ever play together.”

Interesting that Artest was fined $10,000.00 for making a public trade demand, yet O’Neal is free to impact his club’s leverage in trading the former by saying he’ll never play with him again.

Pro Basketball News’ Eduardo Cuan reports on Dennis Rodman’s intermittent adventures with the ABA’s Tijuana Dragons.

In his last outing, the 44-year old played 26 minutes and logged two points, nine rebounds and three Rodmanisms — you know, those wacky things that only he does. He took off his sneakers and walked around in his socks whenever he wasn™t playing. He got whistled for a technical foul for throwing the ball into the stands, and his presence even attracted the attention of Mexican police officers.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, while the game was being played, Rodman unexpectedly stood up from the bench and walked out the front door of the stadium. Someone had smashed the rear window of his black Cadillac Escalade, which was parked amid other players™ cars in front of the stadium.

Rodman declined the team™s offers for a chauffeur and company car for future games. Instead, he said he would œtake extra measures, said Josefina Madrid, the Dragon’s vice president.

Maybe that means he™ll bulk up on Plexiglas or security. Last year, when Rodman and the Orange County Buzz traveled to Tijuana for a game against the Dragons, he hired off-duty Mexican police officers to shadow him.

As far as his basketball skills go, the Worm looked sluggish. He was often the last person to get downcourt, he struggled to hold onto passes, and he missed a couple of layups. It™s obvious he has hardly practiced with the team — or should I say, the bunch of individuals.

Minaya The Bargain Hunter

Posted in Baseball at 12:53 pm by

(Darren Oliver — no, I didn’t know he was still alive, either — shown being attacked by bees).

Mets GM Omar Minaya, perhaps stung by Harris Bloom’s prediction that Julian Tavares would get a 3 year, $15 million contract, is reportedly considering signing Darren Oliver to a minor league deal.

The New York Post’s George King writes that in the likely event the Mets find no takers for Kaz Matsui, the club might make an offer to 2B Tony Graffanino. I doubt many will share my opinion, but I suspect the Mets would be better off sticking with Matsui…just as long as they replace the natural grass with astro-turf.

Schmuck : Ban Cuba For The Good Of The U.S. Team, Orioles

Posted in Baseball at 10:32 am by

The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck takes a typically enlightened view on the Treasury Department’s decision to bar Cuba from the World Baseball Classic.

Does anybody remember the last time we let those guys come over here to take part in a historic event?

Not only did the Cubans embarrass the Orioles at Camden Yards, but star pitcher Jose Contreras enjoyed himself so much he eventually defected and joined the Yankees.

Go figure. Orioles owner Peter Angelos gets accused of setting up the goodwill series to put his club in position to poach some talent from Fidel Castro’s baseball-rich island nation and everybody wants to play for George Steinbrenner instead.

If the Cubans come back for the WBC, it could start the whole vicious cycle all over again.

I say, keep ‘em out.

On an altogether different tip, the New York Times’ Jack Curry points out the Cuban national soccer team was allowed to participate in last summer’s Concacaaf Gold Cup. There were no attempted defections on the part of the visiting Cuban players, perhaps because none of them could tolerate a pay cut moving to the MLS.


Will Leitch Vs. Oscar Madison

Posted in Blogged Down, Will Leitch Sucks at 8:14 pm by

From Will Leitch earlier today :

Jack Klugman is now blogging. And not about baseball, really ” just hawking his book on Tony Randall, and telling Jackie Gleason stories.

Yes, well, we can’t all be so dignified as to hawk copies of terrific new novels for kids. But given that Klugman’s blog has been up for 5 weeks, this is a relatively timely observaton on Will’s part.

But in all seriousness, Klugman is entitled to publish as shitty, as shilly a blog as he wants. Jack has brought joy to the lives of millions with some of television’s finest moments.

By contrast, were the Sultan of Smug (above) mowed down by an 18 wheeler tomorrow, his obituary would credit him with such achievments as publishing a photo of a drunken Kyle Orton and setting new world records for obsequiousness.

Mariners, Washburn Near Agreement

Posted in Baseball at 7:18 pm by

The Tacoma News Tribune’s Corey Brock reports the Seattle Mariners are about to sign free agent P Jarrod Washburn to a 4 year deal worth somewhere between $36 and $38 million.

Chris Washburn, however, remains unsigned by any big league club.

Though the Angels have now lost Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn this off-season, Sidney Ponson is very available. Hopefully not so available in prison, but whenever he gets out.

The Florida Marlins’ fire sale has now extended all the way to reliever Ron Villone, traded today to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Ben Julianel.

Francesca Grills Zeke

Posted in Basketball, Sports Radio at 3:25 pm by

Isiah Thomas had the misfortune of calling WFAN’s Mike Francesca this afternoon.

Francesca : “You put a lot of eggs in the basket….and I supported it at the time, because I thought it made the team better…but the Marbury thing with Larry is not a good mix and you know it. You were a point guard, a great one, you know this, it isn’t a good fit. Marbury has always been a 1 and a half, Larry wants a pure point who plays differently than Marbury does. Can you see any way in your heart of hearts that those two are gonna co-exist on a successful level?

Thomas : “I’m hoping…I know they both are trying. I see them both bending over backwards trying to accomodate each other. But at the end of the day if its not working, then we’ll have to do something.”

Francesca : “But how do you move a guy who has a zillion dollars left on his contract, who’s been to a million stops and isn’t successful in this one, you think he’s still marketable?”

Mike, was of course refering to Stephon Marbury. As opposed to Larry Brown, who has a zillion dollars left on his contract, has made a million stops and doesn’t appear to be successful in this one.

Sweetness Immortalized

Posted in Gridiron, Modern Art, The Marketplace at 2:25 pm by

Derek Erdman is auctioning his portraits of Walter Payton (left) and Harold Washington (right) on eBay. Writes Derek,

I made both paintings pictured while drinking A LOT of Old Style beer which is probably the best thing to drink after running for fitness which is very important for not getting heavy-set in your later years.

Vescey : No Chance Of Knicks Getting Artest

Posted in Basketball at 1:16 pm by

The New York Post’s Peter Vescey laughs at stories of the New York Knicks inquiring about Ron Artest’s availability.

As repeatedly as Isiah Thomas starts afresh or breaks bread with those who’ve tormented, tortured or turned on him, the notion of reuniting with Ron Artest is so unappealing he wouldn’t give up Frederic Weis straight up.

I make this statement emphatically knowing what I know about their year-and-a-half Pacers association. Thomas found Artest so unmanageable, so disorderly, so inclined to do the opposite of what the situation called for, he seriously considered excluding him (and Ron Mercer) from the playoff roster in ’02-03. A late season superior recital at the Garden forced him to change his mind, but not his opinion or a scheme to get rid of him.

Thomas and Jermaine O’Neal were very tight. As far as I know, they still are. Thomas always told his franchise player everything he wanted to hear and saved the negative evaluations for the ears of others. He also manipulated him to do his dirty work.

That summer O’Neal became a free agent. Before he re-signed, I wrote a column that charged him with trying to use his leverage (in conjunction with his distaste for Artest’s irresponsibility, disruptive behavior and aloofness) to pressure management to trade Artest, Mercer and Jamaal Tinsley. It was clear who put him to it; Jermaine is too nice a person to pull such a Machiavellian stunt.

O’Neal was furious the story got out and denied its accuracy. Meanwhile, I got a frantic call from Thomas. He implored me to call O’Neal and convince him that he wasn’t the source, which is true. I had no problem with that. I called the number Thomas gave me but O’Neal never called back.

I know I’m naive; but it seems to me anybody who’d go to that extreme to deport Artest and two others (Thomas’ mistreatment of Tinsley is a sordid story for another day) from Indiana has no intention of importing him to New York,

Don’t get me wrong! I absolutely concur with Thomas’ position for all the obvious reasons. A day or so after Artest’s starring role in the Malice at the Palace, I called Thomas to get his take. “That’s what I’m talking about,” he said. “You could see this coming. It was just a matter of when.”

That’s why half the NBA is petrified to add Artest to their mix despite a relatively inexpensive outlay. The Pacers know they can’t get equal value, thus they’re willing to accept a young talent or two vs. an established veteran in hopes of getting a deal done swiftly. Nobody’s blaming Thomas for not wanting Artest. I just wish he’d come out and tell us what’s really on his mind instead of making a grandstand call to Walsh, then have one of his flacks leak it to the press.

Speaking of grandstanding, there’s at least one professional team (to use the term loosely) ready to talk turkey with Donnie Walsh right away.

(Robbie “White Chocolate” Gill is ready for his close-up. Sort of.)

Stan Van Gundy’s retirement seems to be working out nicely.

Lucchino Vs. The Herald

Posted in Baseball at 12:51 pm by

The Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman on the increasingly prickly Larry Lucchino’s most recent public appearance.

Feeling it necessary to take swipes at œcertain tabloids, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino (above) resorted to tabloid-like terminology himself ” œabsurd, œridiculous, and œhogwash ” on the airwaves of Red Sox™ rights-holder WEEI yesterday to deny speculation about his own future with the team, as well as his relationship with former GM and possible future baseball operations member Theo Epstein.

Columnists in both this paper and the Boston Globe, owned by The New York Times ” a 17 percent stakeholder in the Sox ” have speculated in recent days that Epstein and Lucchino were engaged in a power struggle that could result in Epstein overseeing baseball operations, with Lucchino left out of that equation and possibly bound for a new post with the Washington Nationals.

œThat™s absurd, that™s just completely wrong, Lucchino said. œI and my family have dropped our roots and we™re trying to plant our roots even more deeply in Boston. We love it here. It™s a great city to live in and a great region to live in. It™s the best place I have lived. As much as I have liked the other places, there™s just something exceptional that fits me and our personality here. And this rumor, just like those written in certain tabloids, are just hogwash.

As for reports of a rift between him and Epstein, Lucchino said, œThat™s ridiculous. I™ve known him for 14 years and I™ve talked to him a couple of times since his final departure decision that he made. I™m not going to get into that. I don™t feel the need to respond to that type of provocative inquiry.

Charm City Grudge

Posted in Gridiron at 12:40 pm by

The surviving members of the ’72 Dolphins aren’t alone in hoping the Indianapolis Colts fail in their attempt to go undefeated, writes the Baltimore Sun’s Rick Maese.

You’d think the passion might waver this late in the year. Fifteen weeks into the season, football fans in Baltimore haven’t had much to celebrate. Yet this weekend, they’ll wake up like every other Sunday and start wishing and hoping and setting their TiVos.

We’re not talking about the Ravens right now. On Sunday, a good portion of area football fans will be focusing as much bad energy as they can muster on the Chargers-Colts game.

Can you feel our negative vibes, Indy? It should be hitting you from the east and should be resonating early in the first quarter Sunday.

If Peyton Manning juggles a snap, if Edgerrin James bobbles a handoff, if Marvin Harrison lets a pass slip through his hands, you might wonder how it could happen. Here in Baltimore, we all know. Most of the people in Charm City believe in football karma, and if Johnny U. has any pull up there in the Eternal End Zone, the Colts will soon reap what they’ve sown.

Today, there are some fans who see Manning and remember Unitas. They see James and remember Lenny Moore. They see Harrison and remember Raymond Berry.

But most fans just see that horseshoe and remember the Mayflower trucks.

That makes forgiving difficult, even in this holiday season.

“The Colts betrayed Baltimore. … Until they relinquish the name, the colors and the uniforms, the current Colts are football imposters and civic traitors,” wrote one fan. “I hope they win every game in the regular season and lose the AFC championship in the most heartbreaking, memorable fashion.”

Most around here think that would be fitting. You want to know about losing the big one, Indy? Come talk to Baltimore. The people here know about loss.

Boo-Yah New Year’s Eve – No Trio’s Allowed!

Posted in Rock Und Roll, Sports TV at 12:13 pm by

Writes Tom Enstice, “I’m sure this will greatly affect what will be going on at Chez CSTB December 31.”

From the Bristol Press’ Jackie Majerus.

In a collaboration with Little Steven™s Underground Garage, ESPN is taking on Times Square this New Year™s Eve, offering viewers a big rock ˜n™ roll show with sports highlights.

“It™s something that™s been talked about,” said Keri Potts, an ESPN spokeswoman. “We finally had the opportunity to do it this year.”

Instead of merely recapping the year™s best moments in sports with videoclips broadcast from a television studio, ESPN is co-hosting a live event from Times Square, the epicenter of New Year™s Eve celebrations.

ESPN™s longtime on-air personality Stuart Scott, who anchors SportsCenter, will co-host the New Year™s Eve show with Steven Van Zandt (above).

Van Zandt™s talents are wide-ranging.

“He appeals to a lot of folks,” said Potts. “He™s a great guy. He has his finger on the pulse of music.”

On his Underground Garage Web site, Van Zandt explains “garage rock.”

“For the next two hours, it is what I say it is,” Van Zandt says, with a chuckle. “It™s just back-to-basics guitar, bass and drums with a little attitude, and a direct connection to the sixties, before the machines took over.”

Van Zandt is returning to the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square for his New Year™s Eve date with ESPN.

The New Year™s Eve event, Potts said, is essentially a concert hosted by Van Zandt, with a two-hour segment from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. that will be broadcast on ESPN2, with Van Zandt and Scott as co-hosts.

A network music connection at ABC helped bring about ESPN™s collaboration with Van Zandt, who will provide the “cool factor” to the show, she said.

ESPN will pick up the on-air celebration after the New York Giants-Oakland Raiders game ends, said Potts. After midnight, ESPN will switch to SportsCenter, she said.

Potts said ESPN wanted to “get into the live New Year™s game.”

The Times Square New Year™s Eve party will take ESPN in “a new direction” in entertainment, she said.

Bands lined up to perform are The New York Dolls, The Troggs, who are best known for their hit, “Wild Thing,” The Mooney Suzuki, The Chesterfield Kings, The Woggles and The Charms.

For better or worse, ESPN is very much the trend-setter with the sort of thing, and if this New Year’s Eve broadcast is successful, we can undoubtedly look forward to similar initiatives throughout the sports TV universe. For example, Southside Johnny can replace Rob Dibble on “The Best Damn Sports Show Period”. TNT can give Craig Sager the heave ho and Joe Grushecky can show off his interviewing skills. And perhaps best of all, Bud Mishkin, say hello to your new co-host at New York One, John Cafferty.

Royals In C-List Signing Frenzy

Posted in Baseball at 10:12 am by

From the Kansas City Star’s Jeff Passan. (link courtesy Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and starting pitcher Scott Elarton have all agreed to sign with Kansas City. The Royals are expected to hold an 11 a.m. news conference today announcing the moves, as well as the signing of backup catcher Paul Bako.

To make room for the four on the 40-man roster, the Royals will designate for assignment first baseman Ken Harvey _ their lone All-Star in 2004 _ outfielder Matt Diaz and relief pitchers Shawn Camp and Chris DeMaria.

Elarton™s contract is believed to be for two seasons, while Grudzielanek™s is for one with an option and Mientkiewicz and Bako™s straight one-year deals.

Together, the four bring 34 years of major-league experience, 66 games in the playoffs and a much-needed veteran presence to supplement Mike Sweeney and Matt Stairs while the Royals try to rebuild around their young core and ease the integration of top prospects Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.

I’m still awaiting word from the Elias Sports Bureau on whether or not Mientkiewicz and Grudzielanek will constitute the hardest-to-spell right side of an infield in big league history.

Nomar The Undecided

Posted in Baseball at 6:14 am by

A nice September aside, Nomar Garciaparra is attracting a good deal of attention for a guy that’s missed 181 games over the past two seasons.

From the LA Daily News’ Tony Jackson.

Free-agent shortstop Nomar Garciaparra met with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, a clear sign the five-time All-Star and St. John Bosco High of Bellflower product is serious about signing with his hometown club. However, the Dodgers are just one of four teams known to have a strong interest in Garciaparra.

Garciaparra, 32, is believed to have narrowed his choices to the Dodgers, Cleveland, Houston and the New York Yankees, and it is believed he would be willing to sign a one-year deal in the $6 million-to-$8 million range. But each of the four clubs will want Garciaparra to switch positions, with the Dodgers likely to move him to either first base or left field.

The Dodgers also continue to pursue free-agent outfielders Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders and Preston Wilson. But they appear to be long shots in the race to sign free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon, whose Los Angeles-based agent, Scott Boras, is believed to be asking for nothing short of a five-year guarantee. Free-agent outfielder Jacque Jones, a former USC All-American, also is close to falling off the Dodgers’ radar.

The New York Post’s George King reports that Princess A-Rod is bailing on the World Baseball Classic, not for fear of injury nor pressure from his employers, but because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

“After thoughtful deliberations with my family, I am announcing my decision to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic,” A-Rod told The Post from Miami. “When faced with the decision to choose between my country, the United States of America, and my Dominican heritage, I decided I will not dishonor either.”

I’m pretty sure Sidney Ponson has a similar excuse — rather than offend Team Netherlands or let down the other members of Alcoholics Unanimous, he’ll be taking it easy this spring. That is, unless the Mariners sign him.

Sandomir On “Knicks In 60″

Posted in Basketball, Sports TV at 5:55 am by

Watching the Knicks lose to the Magic the other night was torturous enough, so spare a thought for the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir, who saw the game twice — once in its entirety, then later that evening as part of MSG’s edited “Knicks In 60″.

Slicing Knicks games to 60 minutes does give MSG an extra hour of programming. And to the extent that the shortened Knicks games eliminate the worst segments of odious basketball, MSG is performing a public service that should be honored by mental-health professionals.

MSG somehow found enough of the Knicks’ lamentable 105-90 loss to Orlando on Wednesday night to preserve in the 60-minute format, but viewers did miss the MSG analyst Walt Frazier’s malapropism in the second quarter when he told his partner, Mike Breen, that he had a fear of heights, or, as he incorrectly called it, “acrimonia,” perhaps a cousin to arterial monochromia, the pseudo-disease that Ralph Kramden (above) believed he had.

The most revealing editing came in the removal of a stretch of the fourth quarter, starting when the Knicks trailed, 80-66, with 9:41 left, and ending with the Knicks behind by 98-86 with 2:37 left. Thanks to the MSG editors and social workers, viewers missed the Knicks’ collapsing and falling behind by as many as 21 points.

Heyman : Time To Move The Maestro Of Mope

Posted in Basketball at 5:37 am by

Writing in Friday’s Newsday that ” as long as Stephon Marbury and his vast collection of headgear towels are here, the face of the franchise is forever a frown”, Jon Heyman has no trouble identifying the Knicks’ biggest liability. Though he fails, of course, to mention what team would take on Marbury’s contract.

The Knicks won’t win a thing as long as Marbury is the centerpiece, and that’s all he’s ever wanted to be. That was clear from his NBA origins when he chafed at playing second fiddle to all-time talent Kevin Garnett, and it’s just as clear today, when he complains about his new role to distribute. Sure he’s a hog, but at least he knows it.

Marbury has a lot better chance of spoiling the team’s youth program than enhancing it, like 100 times better. Whatever you think of Isiah Thomas’ moves so far, three of Isiah’s draft choices look promising, while the fourth, Channing Frye, already is productive. But kids are impressionable. What kind of impression does Marbury make when he trudges to the scorer’s table, towel over head, as if he’s headed for death row.

He sets a crummy example before he steps on the court, then worsens things with his uniquely sad-sack, selfish style of play. He makes $19 million and acts as if it’s torture all the way. What sort of example does this set?

He gets upset when he isn’t getting his minutes and points, yet clams up when the team isn’t getting it done. Barely two weeks into the season, he signaled that he’d had it with Brown’s time-tested system. What kind of example does that set?

Phil Jackson went back to L.A. for the sun and fun, but also to stay away from the real “uncoachable” player, which is Marbury, not Kobe Bryant. As Jackson’s good friend and biographer Charley Rosen presciently remarked back then to Newsday, “The only way Marbury ever improved a team is to leave it.”

Despite a 6-15 record, the Knicks aren’t above having a mindless distraction or two. Having already fought with Jerome James earlier this season, 5’4″ Nate Robinson, according to the Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence, attacked Malik Rose in the shower Wednesday, trying to collect on a football bet.

“Nate tried to jump on me when I was naked, thinking he had the advantage that way,” Rose said. “He just got on my nerves, trying to get his money, and I’m not giving it to him. It was a couple of dollars.”

The way Rose said “a couple of dollars,” a couple of zeroes might be part of the bet.

Also as part of the payoff, Rose has to wear a Seahawks jersey and hat. Rose admitted that he tried to get out of the bet during the game when the Eagles’ Michael Westbrook was injured.

“All bets aren’t good until halftime,” he claimed. “When Westbrook went down, I didn’t want to bet no more and Nate won’t let me out of it. I don’t think I should have to pay because all of my guys were injured.”


The High Price Of Mediocrity

Posted in Baseball at 9:08 pm by

During an off-season in which the St. Louis have had no shortage of options for middle relief, either via free agency or the trade route, the Cards have opted to sign former Mets/Marlins closer Braden Looper to a 3 year, $13.5 million deal.

The Minnesota Twins haven’t had a 30 HR hitter since Harmon Killebrew. OK, Kent Hrbeck. With that in mind, Minnesota has signed Tony Batista to a two year deal. Batista, who hasn’t played in the US the last two seasons, smacked 27 homers last year for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

With the Nationals’ ownership situation still undecided, MLB and puppet GM Jim Bowden have asked Frank Robinson to stay on another year. And I’m sure he will — how could anyone, let alone a baseball lifer like Robbie, pass up the chance to see Alfonso Soriano and Preston Wilson combine to strike out 300 times in one season?

While paying tribute to White Sox GM for the trades that brought Javier Vazquez and Jim Thome to the defending champs, the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers tries to predict Kenny Williams’ next move.

The Javier Vazquez trade was the fourth significant move by Williams, who has at least one more to go”most likely trading October ace Jose Contreras or 18-game winner Jon Garland.

You can just about bet that Williams and his clever assistant, Rick Hahn, aren’t going to keep five veteran starters on the roster all winter”not with Brandon McCarthy pitching as well as anyone in baseball in the second half of the season (7-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 16 starts between Triple-A and the big leagues) and Neal Cotts flashing an arm that would fit nicely in anyone’s rotation, although probably only after one more year as a set-up man.

In a market where pitching is king, Williams has it to deal.

He could trade any one of four starters, although Mark Buehrle, the pitching cornerstone, is untouchable. Contreras and Garland are more likely to be moved than Freddy Garcia or Vazquez because they are only one year away from free agency.

The most transparent scenarios are a starter and Joe Crede to Texas for a package fronted by left-handed-hitting third baseman Hank Blalock (signed for a highly reasonable $13.7 million for the next three years with a $6.2 million option in 2009); a starter and Juan Uribe to Baltimore for Miguel Tejada”not that likely”or a starter to Baltimore for a package of young talent in a deal that makes Tejada happier about staying put.

St. Louis and Houston both could use another starting pitcher”a thought that really ought to send a chill through Jim Hendry.

Master P’s New Gig

Posted in Hip Hop, The World Of Entertainment at 7:36 pm by

I suppose this means we’ll have to wait another year for “I’ve Got The Hook-Up II”.

From the Associated Press.

Master P will fill the dancing shoes of his teen rapper son, Romeo, who has dropped out of ABC’s reality competition “Dancing With the Stars” because of a basketball injury.

The hip-hop mogul, whose real name is Percy Robert Miller, is CEO of No Limit Records. In recent years, he has tried out for different NBA teams, including the Sacramento Kings and the Denver Nuggets.

He will be paired with professional dancer Ashly DelGrosso for the competition, the network announced Wednesday.

Some will insist that this unwatchable program is an adaptation of the BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing”, but the fact of the matter is that Cumbucket Media’s television arm pitched a series called “Dancing With Matt Stairs” several years ago. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that no broadcast or cable outlet picked it up, and I’m really not angry, just mostly disappointed for Matt.

Celtic Signs Keane

Posted in Football at 2:26 pm by

Midfielder Roy Keane has completed his midseason move from Manchester United to Celtic, and the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor seems to be predicting fireworks.

Gordon Strachan is recruiting someone who despises mediocrity so it remains to be seen how the perfectionist in Keane will adjust to life north of the border. Only time will tell how he accepts the thud-and-blunder football that is witnessed in Scotland.

At United the players’ cars are washed while they train. Their bags are carried for them as they walk through airports. And there are electrically heated seats in the home dugout. The 500-strong workforce does not include a shoeshine boy, but it cannot be long.

Such luxuries might not be available at Celtic. If their relationship is to be a fulfilling one, Strachan might have to make it clear early on that he does not need a particularly aggressive former boxer pointing out every small failing.

Football phobic Will Leitch sagely observes that Keane’s move to Glasgow “could further signify the end of the Manchester United era.” Why is it necessary to remind this jackass (again) that Glazer’s crap investment finished 3rd in the last two Premiership campaigns and are currently 9 points behind Chelsea? “The Manchester United Era” ended a couple of years ago. This is kind of like wondering how well the Yankees will defend their 2000 World Series championship in 2006.

NAACP’s Gordon Apologizes To McNabb

Posted in Gridiron, Racism Corner at 2:08 pm by

From an NAACP press release issued earlier today :

Bruce S. Gordon, NAACP President and CEO (above), said today that he is outraged by the comments made by Philadelphia branch president Jerry Mondesire about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Gordon said, œI can not respond strongly enough to how I feel about the controversy started by Mondesire™s article. Having spent the first 40 years of my life in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, I have followed the Eagles organization and its players for a long time. Donovan McNabb is one of the best that they have had. He is a great quarterback, an excellent role model and a class act. Whatever possessed Mondesire to take such a negative position on a positive person like McNabb is beyond me. The NAACP has many civil rights issues that require our attention. Criticizing Donovan McNabb is not one of them. However, in light of Mondesire™s criticism it has become a personal priority of mine to set the record straight. I intend to reach out to Mr. McNabb personally to offer my apology as well as my support.

Gordon continued by suggesting that someone write a column calling out Aaron Brooks “who has been just awful this season”.

OK, he never said that last part. But it is amazing how much crazy stuff has gone down over a newspaper article that’s almost 3 weeks old.

4 Vikes Formally Charged In Sex Cruise

Posted in Gridiron at 1:48 pm by

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s David Chanen and David Schaffer.

Four Minnesota Vikings, including quarterback Daunte Culpepper, were charged today with misdemeanors alleging lewd or indecent conduct in connection with a party on Lake Minnetonka in October.

The other players charged were tackle Bryant McKinnie, running back Moe Williams and cornerback Fred Smoot, who was one of the organizers of the annual party put on by a first-year player from the team.

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger (above, right) confirmed no players would face federal charges. Crew members from Al & Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises said women who were paid to come to Minnesota from other states for the party were seen having sex with players.

All four players were charged with one count of indecent conduct, one count of disorderly conduct and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct. All charges are misdemeanors.

The complaints gave this account of the allegations:

Culpepper got a lap dance from an unidentified, naked female in the bar area of a boat and that he placed his hands on the naked buttocks of the dancer.

Williams, in an area near the boat’s downstairs bathrooms, received a lap dance from a bare-breasted dancer and touched her breast.

Smoot was accused of using a sex toy on two women in the presence of numerous guests.

Witnesses reported that they saw McKinnie “pick up a naked woman, place her on the bar in the lounge area, and commence to perform oral sex on the woman.” At a different time in the evening, the witnesses said they saw “Mr. McKinnie along with three other unidentified males receiving oral sex from four women while the men were seated in deck chairs on the boat.”

Not to make light of a serious case of anything, but it should be said that in a time when many adult heterosexual males refuse to do-that-thing, Bryant McKinnie’s willingness to perform oral sex in public ranks him as one of the great libertines this side of Todd Jones. The 2005 (playoff-bound) Minnesota Vikings — they’re not all bad, after all.

O’Neal Pines For Bonzi, Harrington

Posted in Basketball at 12:36 pm by

Though openly lusting after another team’s player would result in Donnie Walsh or Larry Bird being hit with a tampering charge, no such penalties are forthcoming (I think) for the Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal, openly fantasizing about the bounty Indiana might receive in exchange for Ron Artest.

From Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen.

“I think the two guys who can really come in and help us right away are Bonzi Wells and Al Harrington,” says O’Neal.

Harrington (above) is an obvious choice. He spent his initial six years with Indiana before requesting a trade that sent him to Atlanta in July 2004 for Stephen Jackson. O’Neal thinks he would be ready to come back. “I’ve talked to Al,” says O’Neal. “He’s probably the closest friend in the league that I have. He’s almost like a brother to me. We talk all the time.

“As a player you don’t want to talk too much about it. We understand that he’s a very loyal guy, that he’s a Hawk right now and his state of mind is to improve the Hawks. But he does understand that if a trade does come up and he does have to come back, that it would be a good situation for him. It’s more a fairy tale until it actually happens.”

“He’s familiar with the program, he knows what we like to do,” says O’Neal. “I told Larry and Donnie I really would like to get Al because he is a 6-foot-9 ‘four’ (power forward), who’s very strong, very quick, plays multiple positions. He’s almost a version of Ron: not as good individually defensively, but offensively, he can put up bigger numbers immediately. He’s shown that. It would be a very adjustable situation, and a situation he could pick up quickly on.”

O’Neal believes that Wells could also adjust quickly. “He can play the three, has a big body, fits into what we’re doing, thinks defense, can score on anybody offensively,” says O’Neal. “It’s really those two guys.”

Florida Scribe Proposes Watered Down MLB Playoffs

Posted in Baseball at 11:15 am by

Arguing that “the idea that major-league baseball’s 30 teams begin each season on an even playing field is a joke”, the St. Petersberg Times’ John Romano makes a case for MLB expanding the playoffs.

Where is the hope in Tampa Bay?

Where is the hope in Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit and other communities with lower revenue streams?

Perhaps in an expanded playoff system.

It is the one idea that may soon allow a Devil Rays fan to come into spring training with a legitimate reason to believe. It is the one possibility that could permit low-payroll teams to play meaningful games in September.

By adopting a playoff system similar to the NFL – with six playoff teams in each league and first-round byes for the top two – baseball could begin to overcome the inequities that have doomed some cities to failure.

Naturally, the idea is not for everyone. If, for instance, you miss four-man rotations, you’re not going to like this. If you believe all World Series games belong in the daylight, you’ll probably not climb aboard.

If you miss baseball the way it used to be, this idea basically stinks. And I understand that. Most of the time, I feel that way myself.

But this is 2005, not 1955, and baseball is not the same. You aren’t going to buy a bleacher seat for a quarter or a soda pop for a nickel.

Baseball is no longer a diversion, it is big business. A box seat that cost $5 at Yankee Stadium in 1975 went for $95 in 2005. And for that kind of money, fans want more than entertainment. They want a winner.

This proposal is a way to get more winners. Or, at least, the illusion of more winners.

How would it work? Either by having three wild cards in each league, or by splitting into four divisions in each league and having two wild cards.

The four lower seeds would play in the first round, and the winners would face the two division winners with the best records. The League Championship Series and the World Series would follow.

Bud Selig would have you believe the problem is not that severe. He would point out the Marlins won a World Series in 2003 with a small payroll. And the Twins have been competitive with modest payrolls.

Unfortunately, those are isolated cases. The simple truth, according to USA Today salary figures, is 31 of the past 40 playoff teams were in the top half of the league in payroll. That’s about 78 percent.

Given the Devil Rays play in the league as the A’s, you’d think Romano would be able to cite at least one more example of a “communitiy with lower revenue streams” that is home to a perennial contender.

Anna Benson Vs. Adam Rubin

Posted in Baseball at 10:48 am by

Anna Benson, the ever quotable, if not photogenic wife of Mets pitcher Kris Benson, insists she’s been misquoted by the Daily News’ Adam Rubin, writes Flilip Bondy.

Adam Rubin had called up the couple in Atlanta to find out whether Kris Benson was shaken by Minaya’s trade talks with Kansas City, Baltimore and Texas. Rubin also told Anna Benson what he’d heard from a reliable source, that Met ownership wasn’t pleased with her plans to pose for Playboy.

Rubin showed amazing restraint in that story. He warned Anna Benson, several times, that she probably shouldn’t say some things, but she persisted. She told him to write everything.

“All of it is truth,” she said then.

She grumped that Omar Minaya planned to create “an all-Latin team.” She said that the Bensons were giving a million dollars (from his $22.5 million-plus contract) to New York because of 9/11. She said if Kris were traded, the Bensons should get their money back.

She also attacked Carlos Delgado, which Rubin reported.

Yesterday, Anna and the Mets were making nice to each other again, and this story in The News was all supposed to be nonsense.

“The first rule of journalism is: ‘Don’t believe what you read in the papers,’” Anna Benson said, complaining that “quotes have been twisted around.”

Anna should take a tip from Harris Bloom — the next time this happens, claim you were just kidding around.